The official opening of the Stompin’ Tom Centre in Skinners Pond is set for Canada Day, July 1, and Arsenault, the general manager of Tignish Initiatives can hardly wait. The centre has been on the drawing table even before Arsenault joined the staff of the community economic development corporation 15 years ago.
“All this hard work and extra hours, it’s very fulfilling, because a lot of people are looking forward to it,” said Arsenault who has her focus firmly fixed on last-minute project completion details and, of course, the grand opening.
“I’m really looking forward to that commemoration ceremony (during the July 1 official opening program). It’s just going to be so appropriate,” she said. Special guests for the opening weekend include about 15 members of the Connors family who fly in on Friday, June 30.
There’s a songwriters circle at the centre that night and Arsenault said ticket sales to that warm-up event have been strong.
Then on July 1 and 2, the grounds of the new Stompin’ Tom Centre will play host to the first-ever Stompin’ Tom Fest, attracting an impressive lineup of performers, many of whom have toured with the Canadian country and folk music icon, including JP Cormier and Dave Gunning. Mike Plume, who wrote a song about Stompin’ Tom and sang it at his funeral will also perform as will the Small Town Jokurs, Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys, Billy MacInnis, Tim Hus, Ivan Daigle and Matt Minglewood.
The July 1 program also includes the free grand opening programming and commemoration service from 2 to 4 p.m.
“Come that day, when we open those doors and cut that ribbon, the spirit of Tom, I think, will be with us and he’ll be smiling,” Arsenault commented.
The premiere of the “My Island Home: A Stompin’ Tom Story” dinner theatre production will be held on Sunday evening, July 2. The Dinner Theatre will be performed at the Centre every Tuesday and Thursday thereafter.
Other programming during the summer include a Kitchen Party with Michael and Shane Pendergast and a rotating lineup of special guests every Monday, live entertainment every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and a Sunday program alternating between a ceilidh and an Acadian frolic.
“We’re involving a lot of entertainers and giving a lot of locals an opportunity to participate,” said Arsenault. “That’s a big part of what we wanted to do: be able to showcase local talent.”
But, most important, organizers want audience members to have a very enjoyable experience.
“We are shooting to meet and exceed expectations,” said Arsenault. ”We’re working hard to make sure they are going to have a fulfilling experience and they are going to leave and tell their friends about it.”
They’ve already had bookings from across the country, including a couple from BC who wanted assurances the dinner theatre would still be happening in September. Otherwise they were prepared to change their travel plans to August so they wouldn’t miss it.